Women around the world are underrepresented in positions of power and authority in the workplace. Improving the representation of women in government has become an important goal for many organizations and governments working towards gender equality in the workplace. Companies are increasingly adopting policies to increase diversity at all levels of management, and some governments have enacted legislation requiring quotas for female representation on company boards. Although certainly an important direction, my recent research Gender and society shows that the achievement of gender equality is not enough just to have women in positions of authority.
In my research, I ask a simple yet understudied question: How do women’s and men’s jobs and experiences compare when they hold positions of authority? Using data from a large survey of more than 100,000 women and men working in Dutch organizations, I analyzed the differences between reported job benefits, such as earnings and autonomy, and negative work experiences, such as workplace harassment and burnout, between women and men at work on the spot institution. Given that women and men are concentrated in different industries, which may represent different work experiences, I compared women and men with similar qualifications working in similar industries and sectors.
I find that government officials have fewer resources than men in similar jobs and report more job-related stress. Most importantly, women in positions of authority are the most likely to report experiencing sexual harassment, bullying, and intimidation in the workplace of all groups. They are the most likely to report symptoms of job burnout. On the other hand, men in positions of authority are the least likely to experience burnout of any group.
Widespread gender stereotypes are a likely explanation for these patterns. There is ample empirical evidence to suggest that women are viewed as less suitable than men in the workplace and that these beliefs shape social relations and evaluations of women and men at work. One way such beliefs can have consequences in the workplace is when colleagues and clients harass women in positions of power in an attempt to punish them for violating gender norms.
My analysis shows that the highest incidence of workplace harassment among women in positions of authority leads to burnout, a psychological response to chronically stressful working conditions.
Although my study is based on data from the Netherlands, my findings are likely to be applicable to other contexts as widespread cultural beliefs about the incompatibility of women with power have been documented in various countries. For example, one study conducted in the United States also shows that women who have authority in the workplace are more likely to experience sexual harassment.
The concentration of women in lower government positions does not explain their lower resources and higher likelihood of experiencing job strain. Men have more resources and are less likely than women with power to experience job stress in all types of jobs with varying levels of authority. For example, men earn substantially more than women both at the bottom of the power ladder, in low-power positions, and at the top of the power hierarchy, in decision-making positions with the authority to make final decisions about organizational policy.
in 2022 The Women in the Workplace report found that women in leadership roles are leaving their companies at an all-time high, and that the gap between women in senior positions and men leaving is wider today than ever before. Workplace harassment and burnout were often associated with absenteeism and higher turnover, and lower job satisfaction and productivity among those who remained employed. While many women may leave high-powered jobs to pursue higher-level positions, it is highly likely that workplace harassment and burnout will (eventually) cause some women to leave high-powered jobs, leading to even lower female representation in these fields. job places.
My research shows that ending gender inequality requires profound cultural and institutional change.
Dragana Stojmenovska (@dstojmenovska) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at New York University. She holds a Ph.D. studies in sociology at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on gender inequality in the workplace. Her work was published American Sociological Review, Gender, work and organizationand Social forces, among other magazines.
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